January 2011

Today’s word of the day is emmadden.

em·mad·den /ɛm.’ma.dən/

To constructively make mad or crazy, or to feign to make mad or crazy, always without malice or injury, and usually with the complete opposites.

2011: intentional coinage by Steve Kass (http://www.stevekass.com), variant of madden with intentionally vague technoetymology. Perhaps a portmanteau of madden and imagine, perhaps an intensive of madden, or perhaps a variation of madden that communicates a quality of uncertainty or inconfidence, as if compounded with the interjection um.

Janet Napolitano isn’t making the official announcement until tomorrow, but this is 2011, folks. There are no secrets any more.


DHS to end color-coded terror alert system.

It will be called the National Terror Advisory System. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano will officially make the announcement tomorrow at a “State of America’s Homeland Security” speech at George Washington University.

Brilliant, Janet. Brilliant!

Or maybe building another wall for stuff I throw to hit. Or maybe throwing a wall at the wall. Hard to say. Tumblr. Yes, that Tumblr.

Now and then, I peregrinate past something well worth keeping. Starting today, I’ll keep some of those somethings right here.

The GalaxyToday’s keeper: Is Being Done, an essay by Richard Grant White from the March, 1869, issue of The Galaxy¹. (Publishing² from 1866 to 1878, The Galaxy was subsumed into The Atlantic Monthly; Cornell University Library’s Making of America project contains a complete digital archive of The Galaxy.)

Little did I know that the so-called “progressive passive” tense (as in “Your Amazon order is being fulfilled.”) was a relative grammatical newcomer (i.e., it appeared centuries after Shakespeare) to the English language. White did not welcome it. This is an excerpt from his incisive essay.

In Goldsmith’s ‘Citizen of the World,’ (Letter XXL) is the following passage, descriptive of a play.

‘The fifth act began, and a busy piece it was; scenes shifting, trumpets sounding, drums beating, mobs hallooing, carpets spreading, guards bustling from one door to the other; gods, demons, daggers, rags, and ratsbane.’

Read the second clause of the sentence according to the formula is being done. ‘Scenes being shifted, trumpets being sounded, drums being beaten, mobs hallooing, carpets being spread,’ and so forth. The very life is taken out of it. No longer a busy piece, it drags its wounded and halting body along, and dies before it gets to rags and ratsbane.

Related information: Mr. White’s son, Stanford, the celebrated architect, designed the Washington Square Arch and was murdered in 1906.

[Source: Mark Liberman at Language Log]

¹ In which issue find also Julia Ward Howe’s Women as Voters, among other treasures.

² White’s essay will explain this choice of word.